Weblog - Creeping Criminality

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Few people are out and out criminals - most drift into increasingly dubious behavior through insidious wealth addiction. Many drift into fiddling with results, expecting that they can explain away the discrepancy if and when their bluff is called. They fudge (stretch the truth), and then the fudging turns to lying, which extends to cheating and stealing. This is creeping criminality.
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Weblog Comments - Creeping Criminality

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Saturday, April 4, 2009 - From Deron [bullybeasts@hotmail.com]:

Criminals are criminals. And white collar criminals should be serving their time in real prisons. Period. Here is a Canadian example of how systemic corruption is ruining our society and people's faith in it:

A few years ago, the head of the Ontario Hydro Corporation was caught stealing and given 3.8 million dollars in 'hush' money to keep him quiet and make him disappear so that he did not start ratting out on everybody else. The Ontario government tried to say that he was paid off because it was cheaper than prosecuting him. B.S. We prosecute petty criminals all the time, even though it costs a lot more than whatever they shoplifted. Besides, it costs us more not to prosecute corruption, because it encourages others to do it. After all, who wouldn't like a near $4 million payout as punishment for stealing? (Sign me up!) The real reason he was paid off was to make him go away quietly, so he didn't squeal on others. Period.

If any society is to survive and prosper for the betterment of all, the people must believe that there is both justice and a system. If we don't awaken from our apathy and start demanding better from our political and corporate leaders, we will eventually come apart - just like the Roman Empire was destroyed from within by corruption. And speaking of the Romans, didn't one of the Caesar's state, "Just give the masses bread and circuses, and they'll let you rule as you see fit." Nice to see that nothing has changed in two thousand years. (Except now it's beer and football.)

Corruption is everybody's problem. It is a cancer that kills societies - and it is eating away at ours. Sure their are lots of good people still in politics and business. (I believe the vast majority.) Unfortunately, it doesn't take many well-placed and powerful criminals to do major damage. Just ask the victims of the Enron scandal. So we had better start getting active ourselves and start demanding more from our leaders. I say bring back integrity as a quality that means more than dollars. Demand integrity from our leaders. And ourselves.

One thing I might add however; we no longer want our politicians to tell us the truth. Rather, we demand that these people tell us only what we want to hear. Then we call them liars, because after the election they have to break promises to deal with reality. Listen folks, democracy and capitalism really only work when we all put our society ahead of our own selfish pursuits. So we all have to shoulder our share of the blame for the lack of Integrity amongst so many of our political and corporate leaders. Unless we change our own attitudes and priorities, nothing else will change either.

There is more to life than pro-sports, shopping and what's up with Britney! We need to get active and start demanding better from our leaders and ourselves.

Saturday, April 4, 2009 - From Deron [bullybeasts@hotmail.com]:

I think the problem is three fold:

  1. Many of our major corporations are being run by baby boomers whose only priority is to suck as much money from the corporation and pack it into their own pockets as they can, before they either get fired or bury the corporation itself. (After all, most of these people never actually built the businesses they control.)
  2. After watching what has transpired in corporate North America over the last ten years, I sincerely believe that a lot of these corrupt characters are sociopaths. They really don't think that they have done anything wrong. After all, in our society you can be honest and poor and you get treated like dirt. Or you can be rich and a scoundrel, yet your banker still calls you sir. (Although I do know some really ethical and decent wealthy people, so I am not talking about everyone here. Just the crooks. There is nothing wrong with making money properly through 'HONEST' hard work.)
  3. We have become a society that only really cares about four things now. Pro sports, shopping, American Idol, and what's up with Britney! We have allowed integrity to succumb to greed. It's all about us. (And yes, I stand convicted, too.)
Perhaps we need to bring back integrity as a quality that means more than who has the nicest yacht? Maybe we need to see more corrupt politicians and business leaders in orange coveralls. And not in white-collar resort prisons, but in real prisons where they belong! If we don't stop this cancer of corruption now, then we will eventually be torn apart as a society. But don't take my word for it - just look at what eventually happened to the Roman Empire to see where we are headed.

Anyway, my heart goes out to all who have lost their pensions, savings and jobs as a result of the corruption in our society. That said, however, it is up to us as a society to fix it. (So get active and vote in elections. And speak out about things that you know are wrong.) We can bring back integrity!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Nearly 2 years on and no further comments added on this blog since my last posting. Interesting; have we abandoned all hope of fixing this problem in our society?

Well since I wrote my last posting some of the Hawks I mentioned have been found out, unfortunately it is the rest of us who now have to pay for their criminal activities. It will be interesting to see if the UK investigation into the Iraq war actually finds anyone guilty. I do not hold out much hope as the UK legal system could not find anyone had done anything wrong after investigating the shooting of an innocent man called Jean Charles de Menezes on the London underground, even though it was clear that the police involved colluded and lied (sorry, told untruths) about what happened on that fateful day in July 2005 (refresh your memory by reading about it on Wikipedia, be warned it is a very disturbing read).

When will we learn that power corrupts and that everyone in a position of authority needs to be monitored to ensure they do not abuse their position. If we want to maintain a free (both personal and commercial) society, then total transparency and simple limited regulations that are actually enforced are essential. Self governance clearly does not work, as can be seen from the way in which the failed bankers still felt able to take bonuses after their business were rescued by their governments (ultimately that's you and I). Disgusted? I am!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Many of your observations are spot on. However, I feel that many of us mere mortals are letting those principles instilled by our parents gradually slip because of our constant exposure to the wrong doings of our leaders. Surely high morals must start at the very top of our societies.

Here in the UK we currently have a Prime Minister that no one believes what he says (with a wife who is despised for her flagrant use of her husband’s status). We have a Lord Chancellor that is not impartial and who has taken legal direction from government. We have a police force headed by someone who at best is merely incompetent, but more likely bullish and devious. On the sporting front we watch motor racing (F1), where arguably the best driver in the world still resorts to cheating. Finally on the international front we are constantly fed a string of media stories that distort the realities of the events in the Middle East (e.g. highlighting one soldier’s death but playing down 25 civilian deaths). This last point along with many other examples of media coverage also reflects a growth in nationalistic tendencies, (some like to call this patriotism), which is another concern. Please tell me why, when a plane with 150 people on board crashes is it important how many British people died?

Unfortunately we are in a world where the bold, brash, rude and self centered people succeed in everything from politics, business, entertainment and even sport. We are asked to admire these people in their ruthless pursuit of success. In order to succeed these 'criminals' will cheat and lie until there is irrefutable evidence that they have done wrong and even then they offer no apology but instead will either ignore the protests or say they were acting in good faith or on the information available at the time.

Is it not a sad world where senior US political figures openly condone (illegal) long term imprisonment without trial (Guantanamo Bay) and even torture to keep one nation safe? It is also sad that here in the UK there are politicians that have admitted lying (or as they prefer ‘telling untruths’) to parliament, but they are still allowed to remain members of the houses of parliament. If they were doctors they would be struck off the register!

So in a nutshell the issue of "creeping criminality" is that we are not being led by example. My theory is that there are two principal types of character, Hawks and Doves and right now is the era of the Hawks with too many of them in positions of power.

Monday, October 3, 2005

I just read this weblog on "creeping criminality", and never thought of preciving it this way. But it corresponds to what I see happening in the world today.

Basically, from birth to the age of 18, concerned parents (I hope) teach their children that honor and values are the most valuable assets they can have. They go out into the world ready to apply this in anyy phase of their lives, only to discover that the world is no longer working with this set of rules.

Today, the people that get top management positions pad, exaggerate, and lie outright about their experience and schooling. All this happens through someone in 'Human Resources' who hasn't a clue about what is needed for the position, and is aften not qualified to know if the applicant's answers are correct! It's often what is called a 'snow-job'.

Our children say to themselves, "The people who are getting ahead and making the money are the ones that are using the opposite of what I was taught." So, what do you think the large majority do?

This "creeping crimnality" is rampant in every situation where honesty is an issue. This is a lifestyle, a culture that keeps getting worse. I don't know what the answer is, but it is primarily the cause of today's corporations ending up in bankruptcy, loss of good employees, pension funds taken, etc.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I just finished reading your article on “Creeping Criminality”. I must say I found it to be very enlightened and accurate in its assertions - at least it's true at Invensys. I’m an ex-Invensys employee, who can tell you for a fact, that this phenomenon is sadly very, very real. I’ve witnessed the ever so gentle (sometimes not so gentle) "massaging" of the monthly numbers - at Invensys, the accountants could never wait to evaluate the numbers on a quarterly basis – it'd be too late to "fudge" them.

I can tell you that the culture within Invensys could be characterized as "the liars and cheaters club". It's rampant, pervasive, and all encompassing in the plant level layers of management – the people that have to report to the uber-accountants at Corporate. Numbers are committed to at the plant level without the foggiest idea on how they will legitimately be realized. It doesn't matter, because they'll just lie a little bit more to make the numbers conform to what they expect at Corporate.

Some of the initiatives that were thrust on the North American Controls locations were put quite simply crazy, absurd, and impossible - shall I go on? The monthly reporting was and has been for quite some time a "shell game" designed to keep the proverbial crap from running downhill. To accomplish many of these initiatives Invensys would have had to hire people, not lay them off.

I can tell you that every purchasing/planning/equipment/maintenance decision that the plant manager/accountant made was weighed on the scale and viewed through the prism of "How will this affect my year end performance bonus?" If it even remotely jeopardized the bonus, it was summarily dismissed – even if it was necessary for the proper functioning of the facilities infrastructural – compressed air, electricity, cooling systems. The question was always, "Why do we need this?" or "Is this the cheapest one we can get?" or "Why do we need five? Can't we just buy one?" and on and on and on – never ending. All of this because the lies grew on a monthly basis; but they helped the plant manager get that whopper year end bonus, that supposedly only a very few people knew of, and therefore they could go to Las Vegas and gamble some of that hard "earned" money in the hopes of profiting even more! To quote Mel Brooks in the History of the World Part I, "It’s good to be the King!" Yes, yes indeed, it's good to be the King – just ask any of Invensys' upper management.....

Monday, May 02, 2005 - from Steve Walton [SWalton208@cs.com]

I went to the movies last night (May 1, 2005) to see "ENRON: The Smartest Guys in the Room." Because the original Jim Pinto article refers to Enron, it might be instructive for anyone interested in this topic to see this movie. It is disquieting and discouraging, because it portrays leaders of a high flying company (at the time in the early 2000s) as rampant misleaders of their employees, their shareholders, their customers, and anyone else that had a buck that they could steal. They froze the employees' 401K accounts while they made off with hundreds of millions of dollars. And this is surely not the only instance--try Worldcomm, Tyco, Adelphia, etc.

One respondent mentioned humor as an answer. It's hard to be humorous when $3.2 billion in retirement and pension accounts go down the drain. Oops, I take that back--we in California got Arnold as our governator. That's pretty humorous.

On Thursday, August 1, 2002, this was weblogged:

The solution to the problem is humor. Notice how humor is suppressed. An institution is worthless when it can not survive being publicly laughed at. Scoffing should be rewarded not punished. If the news media had scoffed at free lunch, free sex, free wealth we would have solid people running things. Instead we have seducers.

On Tuesday, July 23, 2002, Mark Bielecki [mbielecki@sckazoo.com] wrote :

Controlling business results is nothing new. Public companies live and die by the forecast. Ask any corporate manager. There is the first of the month forecast, the week one forecast, the mid-month forecast, the flash forecast and finally the month end forecast. And with each forecast, the managers must explain why it changed from their previous forecast. And then there are the stock analysts. Why does your forecast differ from their forecast? Every quarter we hear about this company or that that missed analysts predictions by a penny a share or some such.

The ominous question always surfaces - "What's the problem, don't you know what you're doing - is your business out of control?" Any CFO and CEO worth his salt has a "cushion" hidden away someplace to "manage" the monthly results. It could be in undervalued inventory or in excess prepaids, or excess bad debt reserve or excess pension accrual or ? You might call it "Creeping Criminality". It may or may not be criminal, but it sure isn't honest. Why do they do this? Because business is fast-moving and un-predictable, and the "street" has made predicting business results a top priority.

One solution that would help all of us is to abandon much of this endless forecasting. Businesses exist to serve the needs of people, and profits are the pleasant reward of doing your job well. Remember - He that lives by the crystal ball soon learns to eat ground glass.

Comments from Bob Holland [answers@twohollands.com]:

"From a historical perspective, what you describe is not new to our species. We see evidence of the same underlying behaviors going right back in history to the earliest foundations of civilization. A craving for status and wealth is endemic in virtually all human societies. Only the level of organization of the society seems to dictate a difference in the degree of 'creeping criminality'.

"Hunter gatherers were mostly very strong believers in the equality of their fellows and were often satisfied with status symbols that were insignificant compared to those of, for instance, some American CEOs. Only when agriculture allowed us to increase our population density enough to create multi-level societies do we see evidence of creeping criminality on a large scale. But even so, it existed 5000 years ago, and was little different than what you describe. So "insidious wealth addiction" (greed) is part of human nature.

"Your closing thought posits the question of what can be done about this, but offers no answers. So let me throw one out: Liberal Arts Education. The Arts celebrate, overwhelmingly, what's good, true and universal in man. By studying them, and including a healthy dose of the sciences, and disciplines like psychology and history, we are exposed to different sets of values than those you identify as being the root cause of creeping criminality. I am personally appalled at the incredible reduction in liberal arts education programs that has occurred in my lifetime. Perhaps there exists a correlation: liberal arts in our public schools and colleges down - creeping criminality up?"

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